Implied bestiality never looked so good

A column article by: Ray Tate


Welcome to Tate Necessarily So.  This week the Court of Owls storyline becomes the focus of all the bat-related titles, and I've got them covered.  Although, for those who want the complete picture, you'll also want to check out the ending of Catwoman and another less obvious book on our list.  As well, I review Birds of Prey--not yet owl-hunting but soon.  The Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl represent the Superman Family.  I'll also be turning my attention to Dynamite ladies Red Sonja and Vampirella.


Pick of the Brown Bag


It's the CW Batman Family Special with Your Host Alfred Pennyworth!


Batman #8

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo{p}, Jonathan Glapion{i}, FCO Plascina{c}


At first unaware of Batman's alter-ego, The Court of Owls launch an attack against Bruce Wayne, Gotham City man of influence.  Big mistake.  


The Talons are undead assassins and the Court's footsoldiers.  Though not zombies in the classic sense, black science reanimates them into subservience.  However you classify them, they should have died a long time ago.  As a result Batman fights more viciously than ever before.  The usual rules, which are, in general, even more flexible within the new 52, do not apply.  The Owls are many, but Batman possesses the resources, the experience as well as the ability to compartmentalize his emotions.  He knows they are not human.  Therefore, he grants them no mercies.  At one point, Bruce coldly pins one of the assassins to his roof.


Though the Owls eventually penetrate the inner sanctum of the Batcave and discover Bruce's secret identity, the knowledge doesn't help them, neither do their usual techniques for evolving an atmosphere of fear.  The Talons are afterall in the presence of a master of terror, the one deterrent whose mere shadow makes criminals shiver in horror.  It's quite entertaining to read their chatter and Batman ignoring every carefully chosen taunt to just beat the snot out of them.


Bet he wishes he had the same feathers to body mass ratio as the real thing.


Batman's countermeasures, for he long ago fortified his mansion for the worst case scenario, are often hilarious.  He embarrasses the vaunted Court of Owls.  He slides through secret passages and locks them out of his battle rooms.  He uses his trophies to wipe them out, and as Alfred alerts Batman's allies, Bruce slips into something a little less comfortable, girding himself for war.  


Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and the colorist excel when depicting the architecture of Wayne Manor and the Batcave.  Their action choreography make this adventure as exciting as it gets.  It's furthermore fascinating how Batman seems to hide in the nooks and crannies of the artwork and exploit pieces of it as weaponry.  Normally, the setting is a backdrop, but Batman is integrated with the surroundings, and that makes this issue of Batman a most enjoyable artistic as well as prose execution.  



Nightwing #8

Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, Ruy Jose & Eber Ferreira{i}, Rod Reis{c}




When Nightwing receives Alfred's call, he rapids to the Mayor's side.  Writer Kyle Higgins juxtaposes Nightwing's current battle against the Court of the Owls against the history of one Talon last seen cooling his undead heels in the Batcave.  This issue, we learn about Dick Grayson's ancestor's life; how a street urchin became the Court's number one assassin.  


We watch the urchin become a favorite among the wealthy.  He earns his place when he takes bold action to stop a cutpurse.  As he grows, he falls in love and has a full life until the Owls choose him to be the Big Toe of the Talons.  Were these scenes were supposed to induce empathy for the undead killer?  Higgins presents the scenarios and Barrows and his artistic brethren capture them as perfect postcard moments, and I lean toward the idea that it's all done not to excuse Talon's actions but to spite them, to show what he gave up all for the sake of killing.  We're not supposed to feel sorry for him or pity him but to realize just what an alien creature Dick now faces.

En Garde!


Nightwing as we learned in a previous issue was being shaped to become a Talon for the Court of Owls.  The creative team behind that big picture gave Dick a different kind of family to ignore.  In the post-Crisis, Nightwing always denied his heritage despite the fact that he took a sobriquet that links him with Batman.  Dick associated himself with the Titans rather than the Batman Family.  The new 52 version of Nightwing is firmly rooted in Gotham City, and that's how it should be.  The conflict in Nightwing arises from Dick accepting the upstart family of the bat rather than the "traditional" family of the owl.


When the action begins, Barrows contrasts Dick's swashbuckling against an atmosphere of horror involving murderous cults, but even the "tamest" of swashbucklers possess an element of danger and death.  In Robin Hood,the Outlaw of Sherwood slays Sir Guy of Gisborne, played by Basil Rathbone.  Rathbone lays at Erroll Flynn's feet again in Captain Blood.  For once, Nightwing gets the chance to fully embrace his archetype.  Because the Owls are undead, Dick like his father has a rare opportunity to finish the fight. However, the cliffhanger in Nightwing isn't quite so optimistic.



Justice League #8

Geoff Johns, Carlos D'anda, Ivan Reis & Jo Prada, Gabe Eltaeb and Alex Singlcair{c}


This is an episodic tour de farce in which Green Arrow tries to join the Justice League.  The brief vignettes interestingly relate an entire story, with the only themes being Justice League victorious and rejection.


In the first short, the League defeat Amazo, and Arrow proudly shows his contribution.  It's here that Aquaman and Green Arrow suggest a previous encounter.  


Most of the League's characterization is fairly one-note.  Batman's crankier than usual.  Green Lantern is a horse's ass.  Superman, the Flash and Aquaman are more or less straight men, and Cyborg gets to ask the occasional question.  Oddly, Wonder Woman, the character Johns is least identified with is the character that shines.  She's constantly amusing and exhibits a lust for battle that suits Amazonian finesse.

Wonder Woman's Method of Owl Control


The second event surprises even more by involving the League in the Owl menace soaring through the Batman titles.  This is exactly what I wanted to see in No Man's Land.  If Batman shares a world with Superman, why wouldn't he simply fix Gotham after the earthquake? Likewise, if Batman shares a world with Wonder Woman who has a nifty healing device called the Purple Ray...Anyhow.  Better late than never, and the massacre of Owls exemplifies the greater coherency of new 52.


After a brief battle against the bad guys introduced at the end of the Justice League premiere, Johns reveals why the League doesn't wish to add to their ranks.  The rationale could upset old fans, but I kind of like this slap in the face of tradition.  On the other hand, reading the Shazam backup gives one a feeling that's most likely akin to having an elephant anally fist you with its foot.



Birds of Prey #8


Duane Swierzynski, Jesus Saiz, June Chung{c}


We catch the Birds in a mid-stage battle against superpowered government agents, but they're not out to nab Starling, whose criminal connections Swierzynski reveals this issue.  Instead, the agents want to clip the Black Canary's wings.  Swierzynski divulges Black Canary's dreaded secret, and naturally there's more to it than just the cliffhanger sports.  I'm suspecting Owl involvement.

Birds Flambe


I've seen government agents fight superheroes before, and visa versa.  You expect this kind of behavior from Batman.  He's bound to rub the government the wrong way.  For some reason though, I always pegged Batgirl as more of a law abider, but that was the original incarnation of Batgirl.  She debuted at a time when the government and superheroes worked hand-in-hand, and since her father was a police commissioner, she was by relation part of the establishment.


Batgirl has more of an edge in the New 52, and she fought the Gotham City PD in her own title.  Still, it's a little startling to see Batgirl in this mix, but she's fighting alongside the Birds and sticking by the Canary.  It's also a little disturbing to see government agents actively attempting to kill her.  At the same time, I'm glad.  They see her as a threat to be dealt with, and that's a kind of respect.


While I'll always focus on Batgirl in any title she appears, there's no dismissing Katana's nuttiness.  Her method of disposing of an arsonist--who has a huge killing happy for Poison Ivy, not appearing in the issue, is quite inspired.  It also leads to another example of the heroes of the new 52 not shedding any tears over the villains' deaths.  One of the group probably survived, but two of the bastards are definitely done, as in fricasseed.  You could argue that the Birds caused those deaths, and I'm not upset about that at all.



Legion of Super-Heroes #8


Paul Levitz, Steve Lightle, Javier Mena{c}; Yildiray Cindar{p}, Dan Green{i}, Mena{c}


DC Proudly Presents…The Invisible Kid versus Sexy, Topless, Alien Death Bunny


I've always been a Legion of Super-Heroes fan.  I loved the Silver Age team.  I loved the trippy sixties team, and I loved Steve Lightle's work on the Bronze Age era of the Legion.  


Lightle's exotic artwork was a shock to the system in comparison to some of the vanilla illustration that was in comic books of the period.  With Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightle took full advantage of the sexier redesign that occurred during the Cockrum era.  As Levitz and Giffin began rewriting the social mores of the future, Lightle infused the Legion with as much eroticism as a mainstream superhero book could hold.  There was no doubt in my mind that the Legion unlike the Titans had sex.


This issue of Legion of Super-Hero benefits Levitz's emersion in Legion history.  The plot's simple, and within that simple plot, Levitz shows the reader how useful a seemingly chestnut power like invisibility actually is.  The ending will hit you like a bolt if you know your Legion books, but newer fans will wonder what's so earth-shattering about Brainac's words.  No matter.  Ultimately, it's the sexy, topless alien death bunny that's important.  In a way, she represents the full circle link of Lightle's opus.  He began with Newton the rabbit in Quack, and he begins anew with a different kind of lagomorph.

Founders Effect


The second story in Legion of Super-Heroes alas doesn't feature any sexy, topless anything, but it does spotlight the first Legionnaires, properly depicts a group of heroes taking another hero dancing.  It also brings back a fan-favorite femme hero to the new 52.  Yildiray Cindar, Dan Green, and Javier Mena make her sexy and powerful in a neck to toe costume that hugs all her curves in a most appealing way.  The scenes with Lightning Lad facing a raging storm are pretty riveting as well, but damn if this issue of the Legion isn't one of the sexiest.



Supergirl #8


Michael Johnson & Michael Green, George Perez{p}, Bob Wiacek{i}, Paul Mounts{c}


George Perez is considered one of the old guard, but you know something, I always look forward to George Perez art on any title.  It's always going to be exciting, highly detailed, and then, some but easy to follow.


George Perez guests in Supergirl, and he does his usual stellar job, but he also adjusts his art to suit the new 52 Supergirl designs.  It's not really a surprise at how well he thrives in the new 52 Universe.  Although his illustrations of Power Girl are more prominent, Perez is intimately familiar with Kara Zor-El.  Though most connected with Supergirl's death, Perez makes the newest avatar of Supergirl lively indeed.


Particularly impressive is his mimicry of animation within the confines flat panels.  The scene in which Kara shields an innocent from gunfire with her cape is so fluid that it almost moves.  You actually trick yourself into thinking that you see it swirl around Supergirl and the girl and hear the sound effect.



Once again, the government is out to get our heroes, and Kara's no exception.  In this issue however, Supergirl makes a friend in Siobhan, a girl with a gift for language.  This ability grants her comprehension of Kryptonian.  While some of her power can be seen in Paul Tobin's Chat from Marvel Adventures Spider-Man as well as Ensign Hoshi Sato from Enterprise, the entire package is original especially when considering her original manifestation.


The girl in question is a reinvention of an old but untraditional character from the Superman books, and this is the best reboot of the character I've seen.  The character wasn't created to be anything more than a creepy one-time antagonist.  Other writers tried to defy the intent of the creator, but success was fleeting and dependent on the artwork not the storytelling.  It took a complete renovation of the origin to recreate a character that has return potential. 



Red Sonja #65

Eric Trautmann, Walter Geovani, Bruno Hang & Thiago Ribeiro{c}


The She-Devil with a Sword faces her worst nightmare.  Her own reflection amplifying her bloodlust.  I've seen about a hundred stories dealing with similar themes, but Trautmann intrigues with a fresh twist that gives Sonja the opportunity to best her worst aspects.  It's no cheat or an easy out.  Sonja still must fight with uncommon skill.



Artist Walter Geovani employs Trautman's story to detail a duel that flows like an unspooling scarlet ribbon.  The consistency is just as impressive as the variety.


While Sonja battles the sum total of her ferocity, the sorcerer behind the beast begins to fret and calls upon his fellows.   This just leads to a distraction of slaughter.


Trying a new tactic, the wizard threatens Sonja's comrades as they invade the city to mount a rescue or provide Sonja with backup.  I doubt they would say rescue to her face.  However, despite the presence of a magical mcguffin, the seal of certain doom escapes the mage.


Trautmann brings back a surprising guest star, and the way he behaves distinguishes the Robert E. Howard way of thinking from your average sword and sorcery presentation.  The complexity, the shades of gray in Howard's characters partially explain their longevity Howard's Weird Tales.


Countering that, Trautmann gives Sonja a well earned heroic victory that Geovani taps for artistic thrills in a terrific drama.



Vampirella #16

Eric Trautmann, Patrick Berkenkotter, Stefan Renee{c}



Vampirella succumbs to a bloodlust she hasn't felt in years.  Meanwhile, the duplicitous Schuld carries out his plans with Sofia as the vessel for a Big Bad from Vampirella's past.


Right from the start, Eric Trautmann's words suck you in.  He immerses Vee's thirst for blood in the English language to craft effective prose that better than a picture describes the hunger and the rapture of blood drinking.  From the vampire's perspective anyway.


He then lets artist Patrick Berkenkotter take over with supreme depictions of Vampirella in the thrall of supernaturally created tentacles of blood.  A metaphor for her thirst.  Berkenkotter for the most part illustrates Vee as a superbly muscled, big-breasted yet proportionate horror-fighter.

More of This


On occasion though he follows his baser instincts to misfire with distracting moments such as....

Not This


The big breasts aren't the problem.  Berkenkotter varies cup-sizes.  He doesn't draw Sofia with melons.  So, I'm fine with Berkenkotter deciding Vampirella less than buxom, but having them pop out like that between the tentacles.  That's just wrong, and he doesn't need to do that.


Berkenkotter creates memorable imagery in Trautmann's Vampirella story.  There's a moment when Vampirella gains a decisive victory that takes full advantage of her preternatural strength, and it just leaves you in awe.  So why pull readers away from that with the mammary train wreck?



It could have been five.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.


Community Discussion